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Discussion: Transformation of the WestIn the late 19th century, the idea of Progress animated and justified the conquest of the West. This was obvious in the Gast painting “American Progress.”http://picturinghistory.gc.cuny.edu/john-gast-american-progress-1872/Americans have long held a deep cultural bias toward seeing history as progress, yet clearly atrocities have been committed in the name of progress. And clearly too Americans have been ambivalent about progress — seeing it as inevitable, yet also nostalgic for the times that have been lost. Yet the idea of progress has fallen on hard times; as Harvard historian Jill Lepore puts it: “The idea of progress—the notion that human history is the history of human betterment—dominated the world view of the West between the Enlightenment and the First World War. It had critics from the start, and, in the last century, even people who cherish the idea of progress, and point to improvements like the eradication of contagious diseases and the education of girls, have been hard-pressed to hold on to it while reckoning with two World Wars, the Holocaust and Hiroshima, genocide and global warming.”How do you see the course of history? Does the idea of progress inform your worldview? Given the problems of the idea of progress, should we scrap it and move onto something else? If so, what?

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